Anticipation is part of raising cattle

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Calf barn
New calf barn.

It’s watching the rain clouds roll in across a drought-stricken plain. It’s pacing the delivery room, waiting to meet your firstborn. It’s bringing home the tournament win after a decade of falling short.

In a positive sense, anticipation is pent-up excitement. Oftentimes, the intensity is directly proportional to the length of the wait and the magnitude of what’s at stake.

The emotion is often felt in cattle country, though talked about with less frequency.

Favorite time

During a typical interview, I’ll casually ask, “What’s your favorite time of year on the ranch?”

That’s not the kind of question many producers have spent much time thinking about, yet the answers usually come quickly. I can almost guarantee that mixed in with replies about tradition and weather and family, I’ll hear one of two things: calving or weaning.

Those predictable responses name what are undoubtedly some of the busiest times in the bovine life cycle. They are the hallmark of sleepless nights and added workload.

Reward

Yet those days are the reward for a whole lot of anticipation. When you’ve thought about, studied, asked questions, put the money down and then said a prayer or two, you’re invested. You’ve matched cow herd needs with consumer demands and set goals. You’re all in, and all of your hopes for improvement are tied up in that next calf crop.

Yet, months and months go by before you know if it was worth it. How did those calves turn out? An easy delivery and a wobbly but healthy newborn gives a clue. What does the final product look like?

Loading calves on the truck or bringing them into corrals may give the first real answer. You finally get to see the results of your labor. It’s no wonder you look forward to it.

Planning

I’ll grant that a past wreck or uncertainty over this fall’s prices could give you more anxiety than confidence. You can’t control rotten weather, sudden price dips or unexpected health challenges, but that still leaves a lot of the equation in your mind and hands.

You have the power to plan and choose wisely. You have readily available information and more tools than your ancestors ever dreamed about. You have the ability to control what you can, and you can control more than ever.

As weaning time comes around for many spring-calving herds and fall calving for many others, it’s sure to be a highlight that leads to still more anticipation. The fall calves will grow to their own weaning date. Maybe you’ll background and feed them, or develop and breed replacements to carry future anticipation with their genetics and your management.

But for now, in those golden moments of frolicking baby calves or a full pen of the best calves you’ve ever weaned, I hope you find every good thing you anticipated and more.

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